Did you know that within the span of a month a person could forget up to about 80% of the new information that they’ve learned? Hermann Ebbinghaus studied retention and the ability to memorize material over time. Ebbinghaus found that when we learn something new, a large amount of forgetting occurs very quickly.
However, studies show that people are more likely to retain information when they absorb it through multiple senses. When we use more of our senses to absorb a lesson, there are more ways to retrieve that information later. One of the methods instructors use to cement new information is experiential learning.
Experiential learning is a process where one learns by going through an experience first-hand. Participants can learn through multiple forms, either inside or outside of a classroom. Educators and Psychologists have seen correlations between experience and education for several decades. Psychologists John Dewey and Jean Piaget were pioneers of experiential learning. However, many of the modern views on experiential learning theory come from education theorist and Professor of Organizational Behavior, David A. Kolb. In his scholarly writings, Kolb points out that the central role of experience in the learning process is what differentiates experiential learning from other learning theories. Kolb viewed this process as transformative because the individual could take their knowledge and understanding to a whole new level. Herein lies the purpose of experiential learning- to take what the individual has studied in a classroom and enhance that knowledge by giving them the opportunity to do or see these principles in action.
Kolb’s experiential learning theory works in conjunction with his theories on the cycle of learning and the different learning styles.
In his cycle of learning, Kolb shows how experience works to enhance the overall learning process. To learn effectively, a person first needs to have a concrete experience. After the observation has occurred, the individual reflects on the experience. Reflection leads to conclusions, which include forming abstract thoughts or analysis. Once they have drawn these conclusions, the individual tests them out which in turn leads to new experiences. This active experimentation affects the learner in that they have formed a new way to view the world around them.
It’s interesting to note that Kolb believed an individual could begin the cycle at any stage and follow the sequence. Yet, he noted that the learning process would only be truly effective when the learner completed all four of the stages.
Many of us recognize that there are differences in the way we learn versus those around us. Kolb divided learning styles using this model with two axes separating the options. One axis, the Processing Continuum determined how we approach a task, whether through watching or doing. The other axis, the Perception Continuum involves an emotional reaction, of either thinking or feeling.
Utilizes the four quadrants of this model we can determine our chosen learning style.
Folks in the Diverging category primarily use watching and feeling to process what they learn. In other words, they learn by gathering information and using their minds to generate ideas. These people are excellent at brainstorming.
Those using the Assimilating form of learning interact with knowledge by thinking and watching. They prefer a precise explanation as well as logical, sound theories, and they work well with abstract concepts. They’re often able to absorb a multitude of information and organize it into clear concepts.
Combining thinking and doing, those with the Converging style do well to find practical uses for their ideas and theories. People are excellent problem solvers, resolving technical issues easier than interpersonal ones. These folks enjoy experimenting with new ideas and working towards practical applications.
The Accommodating style is fairly common; with the mixture of thinking and doing this learning type tends to be very “hands-on”. They often rely on their intuition and the analysis of others, rather than their own logic. Folks with this learning style prefer to work in teams when completing tasks.
The Benefits of Experiential Learning
There are many advantages to experiential learning; one of them is accelerated learning. Experiential learning also involves critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills. It goes beyond the theories taught in the classroom to offer first hand experience, which further aids in the retention of these new concepts. Another benefit is the increased engagement levels of students. When they have first-hand involvement in solving a problem or executing an activity, they’re more likely to take ownership of the situation.
Even within the context of adult learning, the American Association of Colleges and Universities recognizes the value of experiential education when they wrote on their website “Within professional programs, there is a long tradition of including field experiences as a way to build practitioner skills and facilitate the move from theory to practice.” At the collegiate level, internships and cooperative education are used to aid students in the transition from the university to the workplace. Some of the benefits they’ve cited include building “social skills, work ethic, and practical expertise” as well as a “deeper understanding of the subject matter” and the “ability to engage in lifelong learning”.
Experiential Learning at Nature’s Academy
These benefits are equally available within children’s education. Nature’s Academy provides activities within Florida that focus on science conservation; these are available to schools, families, and other groups. Nature’s Academy offers experiential learning through an assortment of edventures including snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, guided nature walks and hands-on discovery at parks and science facilities throughout the state.
For more information on experiential learning or to schedule an educational field trip in Florida click here. Or contact us at (941) 538-6829.